Ethics Dunce: Northview Baptist Church in Hillsboro, Ohio.

 More Halloween ethics:

Yum!

Rev. Kenny Cousar of the Northview Baptist Church in Hillsboro, Ohio has apologized for his parishioners giving trick-or-treaters comic-book style pamphlets about fearing God. The church had its members reward costumed children who rang their doorbells a pamphlet titled “Mean Momma” in which three children die, one by hanging himself. The Reverend said that the church was “careless,” since the pamphlet was inappropriate for small children. The Northview Baptist church’s Facebook page indicates that 2,200 pamphlets were handed out  to unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.

Gee, I hope they didn’t try to EAT them. Some treat.

Apology not accepted. Halloween isn’t a proselytizing opportunity. The pastor says handing out pamphlets has been “well-received” in the past. Well received by whom? Show me an 8-year old who is happy that he got a religious pamphlets in his bag instead of a Snickers bar, and I’ll show you one weird kid.

It is unfair and presumptuous to hijack a kid’s holiday to pursue a personal or organizational agenda. That means that you hand out candy on Halloween, not condoms, not American flags, not “Romney for President” buttons, not “Go Green” bumper stickers, and not asparagus. If you don’t want to participate in the spirit of the tradition, then turn off your lights and hope you don’t get egged, while I’ll hope that you do.

The church, however, compounded its misconduct by being “careless,’ as the reverend put it, about what it was handing out to children in furtherance of its own goals. Adults don’t get to be careless on Halloween. “Ooops! I think I put rat poison in that little Darth Vader’s bag instead of M&M’s! Silly me!” If nobody in the church bothered to read the pamphlets it was giving out to kids, that’s inexcusably negligent. If they did read them, and ignored that they were being given to children, that’s inexcusably stupid. In either case, it was inexcusable.

32 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Northview Baptist Church in Hillsboro, Ohio.

  1. “Mean Momma” is the worst of the bunch (and as a Mormon Freemason, you can imagine how I feel about the rest of Jack Chick’s oeuvre). I can’t believe it’s even in stock at a church, much less given to children.

  2. And organized religion is already getting a bad reputation. I was thinking of making a bishops head piece, cloak and staff for Halloween. Would that have been scary?

  3. If you don’t want to participate in the spirit of the tradition, then turn off your lights and hope you don’t get egged, while I’ll hope that you do.

    Really? You’re hoping for vigilante justice for people who do the ethical thing and simply not participate in a tradition which they don’t follow?

    • You really consider tp-ing and egging “vigilante justice”? How about flaming bags of poo on the doorstep? I think—now I could be wrong about this!—it’s called a “trick”…

      The refrain “trick or treat” does not, you will note, include a third option.

      • It’s pretty unethical (and illegal) to vandalize someone’s property just because they don’t participate in Halloween?

        Now, if you had hoped the people who actually did give out pamphlets were egged, that’s a different story.

        DisclaimerI don’t participate in giving out Halloween candy. Not because I don’t want to, but because my house is avoided due to a tenant of the previous owner being a sex offender. It’s depressing to buy candy, wait around all night, and have maybe 3 out of 100 kids come to your door. Also, my front light is broken, and I haven’t gotten around to rewiring it.

        • The culture suspends certain ethical norms on certain occasions—like Halloween. But yes, I was unclear—I was rooting for the non-participating creeps who would give out such pamphlets to be egged, not ALL non-Halloween participants.(Pretending not to be home so kiddies can’t get their candy is also unethical.)

          We also never get trick or treaters any more. And it IS depressing. I think it started when we owned an English mastiff.

      • I and I could be wrong here believe that “trick or treat” is a question not a demand and the person can give a treat or a trick, it is not a question of blackmail ‘give me a treat or else!’

        That people give treats is easier because most people don’t know of any good tricks to give to children. Children would be very happy with a good trick if it entertained them.

        To not give people a choice of opting out for whatever reason (Maybe they are not home because the went to a Halloween party) Does that mean they should expect their home to be TP’s or egged because of it?

        “If you don’t want to participate in the spirit of the tradition, then turn off your lights and hope you don’t get egged, while I’ll hope that you do.”

        Tell me is it ethical to encourage bad behavior?

  4. We don’t get trick or treaters anymore. We are out in the country so not easy to walk from place to place but my best friend in the city got 3 kids and her ex got a total of 10 in another area. I thought people were thinking it was no longer safe and not sending the kids out but reading this, maybe they are just tired of getting pamphlets.

        • I wouldn’t say that parents are weenies. There are a couple things conspiring against them: (1) The proliferation of crime news and (2) Human inability to judge rare risks.

          In the 30s, you had national news and EXTREMELY local news. Now, instead of hearing about every hurt children in your social circle, parents hear about every bad event that occurs in town, in the state, and, sometimes, the nation. It appears like the world is more dangerous, when it is really safer. Going along with this, humans just do horribly with small percentage risks. If it happens to someone, it could happen to me. Necessary on the Savannah, not too noticeable when their were 200 people in town, horrible when you hear about every 20 million to one shot.

          While the parents are making mistakes, I don’t think they’re weenies, just correctably and understandably wrong.

      • I agree. My kids always went out and we never had a single problem. My grandkids continue to go out today, again, they have had no problems. My parents checked my candy before I ate it, I checked my kids, and my kids check their kids. Aside from a few opened packages that I threw away and a few opened licorice that my dad said he threw away so he could eat, everything collected was enjoyed with no scary consequences. I think that is likely enough due diligence for Halloween.

          • It is zero. The one case was where a father poisoned his own kids’ candy to collect insurance. There have never been real cases of razor blades or pins in apples, either. All urban legends.

            • Well, OK, it could have been a ploy on my father’s part to get my licorice but I followed his lead anyway. I am sure he wishes I had done more of that along the way.

              • My parents were caught in the poisoned candy trap, too, even though they were pretty free with me most of the time. Being able to leave the house at 9am on a summer’s day and not have to check in until dinner was glorious.

                • Wasn’t it though? I grew up on Army bases so a lot of freedom as long as I didn’t mind that my friends mothers were just as likely to yell out the window at me if I was doing something stupid as my own mother was. We spent countless hours roaming the woods and abandoned gravel pits behind them and I don’t remember any of us ever ending up in hospital.

                  • I didn’t have an army base, but a 50 house subdevelopment with 25 kids within 2 years of my age, bordered on all sides by woods, and on two sides by a 3-foot stream and a 10-15 foot stream is probably about as close to heaven as I could create. Some of us did end up in the hospital, a broken bone here, a misguided attack on a hornets nest there, but I wouldn’t have traded the freedom to avoid a few weeks worth of itchy casts and a horrible case or two of poison ivy.

                    • I had a bit of a fascination with bugs myself but never hornets. I always avoided the stinging kind, sticking to crawling varieties and snakes, which my mother hated. Hard to garden here if you don’t like snakes though so I reap the rewards of that today. Your subdivision sounds like a great place to grow up.

            • Statistically, Halloween is one of the safest days of the year (well, evening, but you know what I mean). Probably because, as Lenore Skenazy has pointed out, so many people actually go outside and see their neighbors, thus building a sense of community while simultaneously discouraging the (very) few who might want to tear it down. Also, I was wondering if someone would bring up the Timothy O’Bryan case. As a resident of Houston, I can tell you that it comes up in the local media more years than not, around Halloween. O’Bryan was executed for murdering his son and, while I have no use for the death penalty, I will admit that he reaped what he sowed. The Candy Man, they called him, and gone but never forgotten, he’s become a real Halloween spook, more’s the pity.

    • Ya as a child I was lucky that a group of us were out on a hay ride and we went to one house and we cleaned them out of all their candy because they were not expecting us. So ya I can see where living where you do can be dissapointing, but every once in a while can offer up a surprise.

  5. In some places, people don’t want you to step on their beautiful green turf. Kids can’t play in their own neighborhoods for lots of reason now days. But it’s not just the kids, people don’t neighbor as much anymore. The neighbors used to be friends, now they are only acquaintences. I thought Holloween was cool when I was a kid, visiting with the neighbors and then later getting to guess who the people were in their costumes. I have even seen now days that people forbid their kids from taking part in Holloween for religious reasons. They are afraid of what? Especially with all the wrong things that people are idolizing. Just leaves more candy for the rest of us!

  6. Mistakes are excusable. Even honest ones with bad consequences. The guy who spills coffee on himself and wrecks and kills a family of four- tragic mistake. But do you drink coffee on the highway? Could you make that same mistake? Do you talk on a cell phone behind the wheel?
    The pastor apologized. He admitted it was wrong. That’s the end of it. Or it would be for everyone who is not so self-righteous that they think they have never made any mistakes. And I guarantee you this much. You and I and everybody else whose lived healthily on this earth for any length of time have made far greater mistakes. Thank God those mistakes are excusable!
    Just be sure to judge yourself with the same judgment you judge this church.
    And finally, did you bother to report on the homeless and hungry this church has fed? Have you investigated any good this church had done for hurting people in her community and around the world?
    If not, you are not a credible source for commentary on this matter and THAT… is inexcusable.
    not really- but you get the point.

    • 1. Not all mistakes are excusable. They may be forgivable, but not excusable.
      2. He didn’t apologize for giving out pamphlets, just for giving out reckless, irresponsible pamphlets. He would have apologized for that without the criticism.
      3. “The guy who spills coffee on himself and wrecks and kills a family of four- tragic mistake. But do you drink coffee on the highway? Could you make that same mistake? Do you talk on a cell phone behind the wheel?” You’re talking moral luck—which doesn’t excuse the bad conduct; it just points up what is wrong with the conduct even when people get away with it. Are you really making the ridiculous argument that legitimately wrongful conduct shouldn’t be pointed out and criticized by anyone who isn’t perfect, meaning that wrong-doers always get a free ride? I address this fallacy, which is based on a simple-minded reading of the Bible, and is as annoying as it is foolish, in the section on ethical fallacies.
      4. Show me any place where I state or imply that I don’t make mistakes. That implication would only be seen by someone laboring under the previously noted dumb fallacy. I am as hard on myself or harder than I am on anyone I criticize. Your comment is, again, just a way to dodge accountability.
      5. “And finally, did you bother to report on the homeless and hungry this church has fed? Have you investigated any good this church had done for hurting people in her community and around the world?” No, because it’s irrelevant. We don’t have Good Deed Banks that allow those who perform good deeds to be excused of bad conduct that less saintly individuals would be criticized for.
      6. Yes, I get the point: you embrace the ethical rationalizations of a 6th grader, or a corrupt politician.

  7. Remember Maurice Chevalier’s song, “I’m So Glad I’m Not Young Anymore”…?

    Sounds like me: “I’m So Glad I’m Not A Christian Anymore!”

    Thank God. (No, not an atheist of unbeliever — just a grateful member of A.S. (Amiable Skeptics).

  8. While the track may have been age inappropriate, handing out material when *someone comes to YOUR door* is not against the law, there is nothing wrong with it, and it is your PERSONAL opinion that a person shouldn’t do anything but hand out candy. Our country is still a free country, and this is just an exercise in freedom of speech. My opinions, your opinions; everyone has an opinion on any given matter.

    It is part of the chance that you take when you let your kids walk up to the doors of people that they don’t know. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A REALLY BAD PERSON THAT WISHED TO DO PHYSICAL HARM TO THE CHILD. Instead, it was someone who just didn’t think about what it was that they were handing out. There are quite a few pamphlets that are not like that, which they could have handed out.

    None of us agrees with every way of thinking that is out there, but if we start trying to tell someone what they can and can’t say, no one is safe. This person or persons handing out pamplets could have been more careful what they handed out, but they did nothing unlawful.

    Remember that in protecting the rights of others, you are protecting your own rights. Freedom of speech is getting throw out the window all over the place. We are in danger of loosing our rights. What is next? Just a thought.

    • Good list of rationalizations, which don’t do the job at all. They never do.

      1. First error: “handing out material when *someone comes to YOUR door* is not against the law”–so what? Lots of bad conduct isn’t against the law. This is ethics–is it right to turn a fun tradition for kids into a cheap opportunity to proselytize? Of course not.
      2. 2nd error “This is just an exercise in freedom of speech” Like too many citizens who should know better, you presume that everything we have a right to do is right or excusable. It’s not.
      3. 3rd error “My opinions, your opinions; everyone has an opinion on any given matter.” Right. And ramming those opinions down kids throats on Halloween is a rotten thing to do.
      4. 4th error “It is part of the chance that you take..” The children gave them permission to act like jerks? Please.
      5. 5th error “IT COULD HAVE BEEN A REALLY BAD PERSON THAT WISHED TO DO PHYSICAL HARM TO THE CHILD” Ah! The Bottom of teh Barrel ratioanlization: it could have been worse. Lower than low. And if the guy punched the little kids in the teeth, their lucky he didn’t set them on fire. I love it.
      6. 6th error “if we start trying to tell someone what they can and can’t say, no one is safe.” Classic confusion of speech and conduct. Nobody trying to censor the speech. We are saying that the CONDUCT of hijacking Halloween for an adult agenda is wrong, selfish, and mean.

      And it is.

      • I think you could have been harsher on the 6th error: Telling people when it’s unethical to say something isn’t telling someone they can’t say something.

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